If you’ve been following me since this summer then you know about my partnership with What’s Happening Now? New York Radio Show (#WHNNYRadioShow)—a collaborative effort with fellow Resilient Warrior, Lourdes Bigio. These past four months have been full of lessons and expected growing pains but very rewarding. Specifically, I’ve realized that while we prepare for each Sunday’s airing, our preparation doesn’t necessarily follow through to a tee (but hey, that’s the music industry). That said, Lourdes, our team and I are usually left to react to the unpredictable happenings and still put on a great show—which reminds me of the 1999 film, Any Given Sunday, that demonstrates how a team can win or lose but it’s still required to perform either way.

On our December 10th show, our DJ canceled because his son was sick which left Lourdes to host and take control of the music. Despite how hectic that sounds, she still managed to host interviews with the CEO and COO of Line of Fire (LOF) clothing company, Ronnie Brees James and Damien Wood. There were a couple of their artists that accompanied them as well—which made the show a packed house and good time!

A key element from that day’s airing was hearing Damien share that he was recently released from doing 20 years of jail time and 7 years of solitary confinement. As much as we may try not to make a judgment on our first encounters with someone—they do happen; and since Damien presents himself in a strong, quiet yet confident and established way that I would’ve never thought he went through this extensive period of adversity. Immediately, I knew I had to share the story with all of you.

Damien, thank you for taking the time to express your testimony and how you have overcome trying times.

Folks, please take a moment to read Damien’s story below and follow him and the work of LOF on Instagram @fizar_lof.

WHO IS DAMIEN?

I know you are the COO of LOF but outside of that job, who is Damien Wood—the person? How would you describe yourself and why?

Outside of being the COO of Line of Fire Clothing Inc., I would describe myself as a man with lots of ambition. The reason I say that is because as a child, I dealt with so much at one time but somehow I channeled my rough times into a desire for some type of achievement.

What fact would people be surprised to learn about you?

The fact that I've bounced back from situations that were placed upon me when most people would have broken down mentally, spiritually and physically…

Describe your day-to-day routine.

My day to day routine consists of work, work and more work (laughs). Nah, but for the most part, I'm a foreman supervisor of a construction company in New York City, which takes up 8-10 hours of my day. However, I'm constantly networking & communicating with my partners at LOF…and most of all providing for my family and kids in all aspects.


TIME AWAY


Recently, you found yourself re-entering society after 20 years of jail time and 7 years in solitary confinement. How did you land in that position and how old were you?

The accumulation of prison time came from various crimes—guns, drug trafficking, armed robbery assault with deadly weapons...I was 13 when convicted of my first crime…The 7 years of solitary confinement came from being highly aggressive & assaultive toward the prison guards…

What was your thought process as you awaited the outcome of your sentencing?

My thought process was blank, honestly. I had no sense of direction.

Walk me through the process of what it was like to get arrested, central booking and hearing your sentencing. Were any of your family members with you?

Being arrested was a little scary at first but hearing the judge tell me I could be facing 25 years to life at the age of 16 was crazy...My aunt was there throughout the whole court proceedings—showing support and love on behalf of my family.

Did//Do you feel like you let them down?

Yes.

What were your immediate thoughts when you sat in your cell for the first day and night?

My immediate thoughts were "what the hell was I thinking?"

Can you describe the internal fortitude that kept you focused and determined to make it out of jail as a better person? How did the prison lifestyle shape this mentality?

What really kept me focused was that I knew I had a family and kids that really loved me on the outside…Also I began to feel out of place, like I didn’t belong there…I had to dig deep within to understand this ain't the life I want...I developed a vision plan in my mind...all this came from reading books on business, politics, economics, entertainment, history etc… The solitary confinement helped out in the sense it gave me alone time…

How frequently were you moved around? Do you remember all the prisons you were moved to?

I was moved around a lot. The prison administration flagged me as a security threat. I was in Attica, Auburn, Elmira, Comstock, Clinton, Sing Sing, Coxsackie, Southport (Solitary confinement) etc...All maximum Security Prisons in New York state. I've been to some more than twice.

Did you find some sort of support group or form friendships with anyone while locked up? Do you still have that support group and are you still in contact with any of these individuals?

I've met plenty of associates—while some remain just that, others became comrades…

What advice do you have for someone who may find him or herself in a situation where they feel tempted or peer-pressured to do something illegal? How would you tell someone they don’t have to move forward with committing a crime when they feel like they have to?

The advice I'll give will always be honest and stern...I would walk ‘em through my past life and/or others lives that are dead because of violent situations or guys that are in prison for life…There is no way out in this game we call life. The chances are slim to none…There's not a lot of people who can tell this story because they’re not here now. Live and enjoy life because at any given moment you can be gone forever!

When did you get out? What was the first thing you did after being released?

I was released March of 2016…And I thank God that I made it out alive and that I made vows to walk in the path of righteousness.


FATHERHOOD


I noticed you mentioned your twins on Instagram. How many kids do you have? Do you enjoy fatherhood?

I have 4 kids and I love fatherhood.

I also noticed that you made a post with the following caption: “I would never find out the real reason but I can just imagine the mental pressure that was placed upon my father which made him take the easy route but difficult road…being dealt an unjust situation can either make you or break you…in this situation, it broke my father and indirectly added to my mentality ‘only the strong survive.’” Can you elaborate on what you mean by this caption? Is your dad currently in your life?

My dad is not in my current life…I will never know the real reason why he left us behind. However, it had something to do with my mom’s drug addiction…I guess leaving was the easy route instead of continuing down that difficult road he encountered…


LINE OF CLOTHING


How did you get involved with Line of Clothing and Brees?

My involvement with LOF came about after my release from prison...Instagram was booming at that time so one thing I learned while inside was to utilize the Internet for networking so that's what I did. At that time LOF had an up & coming buzz and it just so happened I ran into Ronnie Brees James, the man behind this beautiful movement and boom and boom one conversation later and this is what you've got…

What lessons have you learned as a COO?

Some of the lessons I've learned as a C.O.O. is being professional as a person and a businessman. However I love that it also teaches you to be reliable and responsible on a big level...In any event it's an ongoing learning experience for me that I love.


LOOKING AHEAD


What are you most proud of?

MYSELF.

Describe resilience. Do you consider yourself a resilient warrior?

I consider myself a Resilient Warrior because throughout my life I was able to withstand difficult situations and circumstances and bounceback quickly.

What can people expect from Damien Wood in 2018?

They can expect more "Heat" from LINEOFFIRECLOTHINGINC, LOFMUSICGROUP; Us getting involved with movies, webseries, TVshows, Radio Shows, Books, etc…And Most of all giving back & being there for the youth to help burn down obstacles & stereotypes...
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(You're never alone. Sharing your story can be therapeutic; in addition, to being a source of motivation to someone else. You're. Never. Alone. If you're interested in being interviewed, please email melvin@melvinataylor.com. Anonymous submissions are welcome. Join the Resilient Warrior Community on Facebook)